U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Tatyana Freeman
- The Chief of Naval Operations, Mike Gilday, says the U.S. Navy built the aircraft carrier USS Ford with too many new technologies.
- Now, the Ford is several years behind in its life cycle because of problems with many of those new technologies.
- The last of the Ford’s four advanced weapon elevators, the most glaring example of the ship’s tech gone wrong, should enter service later this year.
The head of the U.S. Navy admits the service added too much untested tech to its latest and greatest aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford.
When the Navy first built the Ford, it incorporated nearly two dozen new technologies, some of which are still giving the service headaches 4 years after the ship entered the fleet.
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In a presentation recorded for August’s Sea Air Space exposition, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said adding 23 new features to the Ford was a “mistake” the Navy can’t afford to repeat. Gilday said he needs to take “a much more deliberate approach with respect to introducing new technologies to any platform”—preferably one that only introduces up to two technologies per ship and thoroughly tests them on land first.
The USS Ford is the inaugural ship in the Ford-class aircraft carriers, the first new class of aircraft carriers in 40 years. The Navy was eager to cram new tech into the Ford, including a new search radar, electromagnetically powered aircraft catapults to replace traditionally steam-powered catapults, a new aircraft recovery system, and 11 electromagnetically powered elevators designed to shuttle bombs and missiles from the ship’s magazine to waiting aircraft.
But technical problems with the new features led to $2.8 billion in cost overruns and delays, resulting in a total ship cost of $13 billion—not including the actual planes on the carrier. Those delays meant the Navy only commissioned the Ford in 2017, despite laying it down in 2009. Even then, problems lingered, especially with the electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS) and the advanced weapon elevators (AWEs).
The ship’s first full deployment, originally scheduled for 2018, is now set for 2022.
As a result of the Ford fiasco, the Navy is building copies of new tech bound for its Constellation-class frigates on land to ensure they work properly, according to U.S. Naval Institute News. The Navy surprisingly didn’t do this for several pieces of key tech that went into the Ford. Gilday also said the last of the 11 AWEs will be operational sometime this year.
The Ford is currently in shock trials, a series of tests off the coast of Florida designed to ensure the ship can withstand shock and battle damage in wartime. The ship will then enter a maintenance period before its first deployment next year. Hopefully.
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